Exhibit recalls old tools, campaigns

Dave Marsh recounted memories stirred up by the exhibit, alongside Martina Wall and Mattias Olshausen
Dave Marsh recounted memories stirred up by the exhibit, alongside Martina Wall and Mattias Olshausen

By: Frank Green

The first rule of every museum is Do Not Touch. It’s never more tempting than at a new exhibit at the McBride and District Public Library.

Dozens of ordinary tools are on display, everything from butter churns to old-timey vacuum cleaners. But gathered together, sitting in glass boxes, they’re plainly beautiful. And they make me want to work.

The occasion for the exhibit is the 100th anniversary of the Farmer’s Institute, which local people founded to advocate for themselves, before there was a local government. One of the first things they campaigned for was cheaper stump powder—for blowing out the tree stumps that stood between them and cultivating fields of crops. The pieces are artifacts of that hardscrabble, handsome life.

The displays straddle the line between art and everyday objects. The centre of the room features the “Lily Whitehead Collection,” but librarian Martina Wall explained that’s another way of saying they’re her grandmother’s things, on loan from Wall’s basement. Her grandmother raised ponies and Arabian horses. The ornate saddle, the spurs, the pearly white cowboy boots were for special occasions, when she’d parade the animals at shows.

They’re objects, in other words, for riding hairy animals that poop when they please. But they’re also the way humans make meaning in their lives.
The exhibit is up until the end of August.

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